Nurses union resumes talks with KRH

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The nurses union made up of staff from several Kalispell Regional Healthcare facilities is set to begin its second round of bargaining over its initial contract.

The union, formed under Service Employees International Union 1199NW, will meet with hospital officials today. Its first bargaining session with hospital officials was held Nov. 21.

Sabrina Kimm, lead negotiator for SEI Union 1199NW at Kalispell Regional, anticipated discussions at today’s session primarily will stick to “non-economic issues,” such as work schedules and how to define family medical leave.

“For example, having a standard agreement that schedules are posted at least two weeks in advance so people can plan their lives,” Kimm said.

She said this is the standard way to approach a first union contract.

“You can spend so much time talking about things that are really mundane,” she said, calling these issues the “bread and butter of a union contract.”

Kimm said bargaining over the first contract can take at least a year, but the union will continue to maintain a “high-road approach” throughout the negotiations. She hopes the hospital will do the same.

“There’s no need for us to be saying anything negative,” she said.

Kimm said the hospital and the union “share similar values” and the parties emerged from the first meeting in the “spirit of collaboration.” She said both parties want competitive wages and to make Kalispell Regional the “best place to work in the community.”

Mellody Sharpton, Kalispell Regional spokeswoman, said in a statement, “Kalispell Regional Healthcare respects and appreciates the very important role that our registered nurses play in providing excellent care in our community. We are committed to working with the union to come to a fair agreement that provides for competitive wages and benefits for our nurses, while ensuring we are also positioned to continue providing high-quality care for our patients.”

Nurses from Kalispell Regional Medical Center, the HealthCenter, Brendan House and Kalispell Regional Medical Center clinics voted to unionize in July 2019 by a wide margin. North Valley nurses and Kalispell Regional nurses in a supervisor or manager role were excluded from the bargaining unit.

Reporter Colin Gaiser may be reached at 758-4439 or cgaiser@dailyinterlake.com

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